Episode 13-Miki Yamanaka: Living Her Dreams

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Japanese jazz pianist Miki Yamanaka, born and raised in Kyoto and Kobe Japan, now resides in New York City with her drummer husband Jimmy Macbride. Her upcoming album, Shades of Rainbow is set to drop on September 8. Excitement explodes in Miki during this hour-long interview with this jubilant pianist who is a mainstay at New York’s prime jazz clubs for emerging talent, Smalls and Mezzrow, both found in the West Village in Greenwich Village in the lower west side of Manhattan.

Miki’s been a New York resident since 2012. She did her graduate work at Queens College in Jazz Performance 2014-2015. Her street education occurred in New York City jazz clubs and concert halls before the COVID pandemic, performing with the likes of Antonio Hart, Peter Bernstein, Nicole Glover, Joe Farnsworth, Tivon Pennicott, Roxy Coss, Mark Turner and Fred Hersch. But all of that came to a grounding halt in March 2020 as COVID wiped the streets clean, leaving all jazz musicians jobless and at home with nobody to play with. This required inventiveness.

Taking the cue from friend and fellow jazz pianist Emmet Cohen, Miki began to assemble ensembles in hers and Jimmy’s Harlem apartment and stream her show “Miki’s Mood” on the internet. Perhaps not as successful as “Live at Emmet’s Place” it became a place where Miki, Jimmy and friends could play and jam once more and make a little money. 

In 2015 she was one of three pianists selected to participate in “Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead”, an intensive composition residency at the Kennedy Center. She earned her Master of Music degree from Queens College, receiving the Sir Roland Hanna Award. Recently, Miki was one of ten new talent identified by The Academy (Grammy) as top emerging jazz talent. 

Shades of Rainbow is Miki’s fourth release, her second for Vancouver-based record company, Cellar Music. Her debut release, Miki, was also from Cellar Music. Her previous two recordings, Human Dust Suite and Stairway to the Stars can be found on the Outside in Music label.

You can find this episode on all of the major podcast streaming providers. Support live jazz. Support women in jazz. Subscribe to be one of the first to receive SJS podcasts, news and information. Photo by Martina DaSilva.

Thanks for listening. Steve Braunginn